The impending announcement
Last night I spent the better part of a lengthy post discussing the Friday night fall harvest party and impending candidacy of Larry Hogan, expressing the sentiment that, while the party was nice, I’m sure a lot of people were expecting a more formal announcement.
But when looking into the mechanics of such a campaign I suppose I can see why this situation had to happen.
I know enough about campaign finance law to realize that Larry has to have an active account with the state Board of Elections before he can do any financial activity related to a gubernatorial campaign. His former account set up for the 2010 election was closed, so on Thursday when I checked he had no new account set up yet. The BoE is generally a few days behind so the possibility of a Friday setup was there.
But there will have to be a transition by Change Maryland as well. Because it’s a 527 organization, Change Maryland can’t advocate for Larry Hogan as a candidate without forming a PAC. According to the Summary Guide of Maryland campaign laws:
Other political committees not registered with either a state or with the FEC, i.e. 527 organizations or political clubs, may make contributions to a Maryland political committee. Additionally, they are not required to file any campaign finance reports or statements with the State Board.
However, if the political organization engages in campaign finance activity or express advocacy regarding a candidate for a State election, then the organization may be required to form as Maryland PAC.
Obviously Change Maryland can continue to function without Hogan, but as the public face of the organization going without Larry would make things a little more difficult. By pushing the announcement to January, the transition can be formalized, although I’m sure those plans were already in place some time ago.
And having Change Maryland as the vehicle for Hogan’s brand awareness presents some great advantages. As Larry pointed out in 2011 in Change Maryland’s early days, “it certainly wouldn’t hurt if I run.” As it stands, Larry can use Change Maryland in the same sort of fashion that Charles Lollar used his draft campaign – looking gubernatorial in one respect, but allowing himself to be coy when needed. As I said a month ago regarding Hogan’s Eastern Shore appearances:
Most people who are in the real estate business aren’t going to make a farm tour of the Eastern Shore. But if you’re seeking the Republican nomination for governor, it’s certain you will be talking to your base and that number includes a heaping helping of Eastern Shore hospitality.
Larry can make these trips – presumably on his own dime, although it’s possible Change Maryland paid for it (how would we know?) – but can also tell the Gazette he’s looking for the “perfect scenario” to enter the gubernatorial race or be critical of the budget in the Easton Star-Democrat without disclosing what he may do if elected. That’s the beauty of “being” Change Maryland.
The second advantage to waiting until January is that it will be possible to know just how well his three opponents, who have already filed and would have to turn in campaign finance reports to the state BoE by the middle of that month, are doing financially. In his 2010 run, Hogan was willing to drop $325,000 into his personal kitty so he could have that to fall back on as seed money.
Of course, there are a couple drawbacks to this strategy. One is that money and volunteers have a couple more months to accrue to other campaigns. But the other is the nagging perception of entitlement and unflattering comparison to Bob Ehrlich’s late entry to his doomed 2010 campaign, where he dithered for months on whether he would run, flirted with the notion of running for U.S. Senate, and finally announced just seven months before the election with just one barely-known opponent because Hogan had ceded the race a few months earlier.
Moreover, Hogan is the one candidate in the race with a direct connection to Ehrlich as his former Secretary of Appointments.
I suppose what makes this troubling for me is that we have less of a chance to vet Larry Hogan before the election next June. Certainly we can gather that he’ll be a fiscal hawk, but what about other issues like the Second Amendment, transferring power to local jurisdictions by reining in Annapolis bureaucrats, or dealing with federal mandates on education or Obamacare? Change Maryland has been a valuable resource in the fight against the O’Malley/Brown administration on the tax front, but when running for governor you need more than an one-note samba.